Compromise is progress

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Water settlements bode well for long-standing disputes

By Sherry Robinson

In 2010, a year that was bottom-heavy with bad news, we saw major progress in the stormy world of water.
Three landmark cases that defied resolution and guaranteed lawyers’ job security were settled, and our congressional delegation, led by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, managed to wring funding from Congress.
We also marked progress on the Rio Grande and in Ruidoso.
It doesn’t mean all parties to the major settlements are happy, but it does represent an acceptance of certain legal realities – namely, under western water law, tribes do have senior rights.
After all these decades, it really is time to move on.
The storied Aamodt lawsuit was filed in 1966 by water czar Steve Reynolds, who assumed the courts could sort out ownership of water rights in the Pojoaque Valley in five years, tops.
But the lawsuit’s namesake, R. Lee Aamodt, the first in an alphabetical list of defendants, died long before resolution appeared on the horizon. (Reynolds once carped, “Aamodt, as in dammit.”)
The case, which became a standoff between pueblos and non-Indians, didn’t lumber into mediation until 2000.
Many participants saw their hair turn silver over the course of the longest running lawsuit in the federal courts.

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